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Well, how did it go? Christmas, I mean. Whether you celebrate or not, I hope these last few days have been absolutely grand. I haven’t posted in a while -a long while- which I didn’t quite realize until I started writing this post. Five days ago.

Yep, five days. I am a really slow typist to be sure, but things got in the way and in lieu of eating and drinking in the manner I am accustomed at this time of year, I was busy with a sick kiddo, then a sick me. We are now weighing in at “passable” on the feeling again like humans scale. National Eggnog Day came and went and here we are.

For eggnog this actually works for me. I am absolutely not done with it yet. If you are a little like me, you may already be planning your annual eggnog-flavored coffee creamer stash, now that the pumpkin spice creamer you hoarded a month ago has dwindled. I understand and am totally with you.

I’m not one to pour a bunch of eggnog into a cake recipe because though it can work beautifully, frankly I would rather just drink that. This pound cake recipe piles in the flavor from the cake to the soak, to the glaze on top. What you get is decidedly quite noggy, keeps well, and makes a nice post-holiday hostess gift. Or boozy breakfast. Your choice.

Tipsy Eggnog Pound Cake

1 c. (two sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. cream cheese
3 c. sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
3 c. cake flour, sifted
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp rum
1 Tbsp brandy
1 c. sour cream

1/2 c.powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. brandy
Pinch kosher salt
water, as needed

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325F.
Prepare one bundt cake pan, two loaf pans, or four to six mini loaf pans prior to mixing. (I spray mine with pan spray, line with parchment, then lightly spray the paper.)

Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together and set aside.
Cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the sugar a cup at a time on low speed. Kick the speed up to medium-high and cream until the mixture takes on a thick, mayonnaise-like texture.
Add the eggs one by one, allowing each to incorporate fully before adding the next. Scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until almost fully incorporated. Scrape the bowl down again.
Mix the extracts, rum, brandy, and sour cream together. Add the mixture to the cake batter and fold in by hand with the rubber spatula.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan(s) and smooth the top. Bake until the middle springs back when pressed. This will take up to 70 minutes for a bundt or larger loaf, closer to 45 minutes for smaller loafs.

This part is optional- if you want a boozier cake, combine 1/2 c. water, 1/2 c. sugar, and a small pinch of salt in a small pan and bring up to a simmer. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, remove from heat. Add brandy, to taste. While the cake is still very warm, brush the brandy mixture on, allowing each application to soak in before adding the next.

With a wire whisk, combine the powdered sugar, brandy, and salt. Add the water a few drops at a time until you get a thick, ropy texture. Dip a spoon into the glaze and waggle it over the cake to create stripes.

Eat with reckless abandon. IMG_20151226_171605148

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Hey over there! So, is it feeling a little like the calm before the storm over where you are? Literally, the world, after you stop looking at the news and Facebook and breath some of that outside air seems a little quieter and calmer. Maybe it’s just me. Entirely possible. Walking around town yesterday morning with a thick mist hanging over everything sounded just the same as when snow starts coming down in earnest, and when you go outside and shut the door behind you and just stand… well it sounded just like that.

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It won’t last for long, so if you’re feeling it too, drink it in and keep it stored for when the holiday rush toward whatever comes.
It is National Brownie Day, and it is no accident that the goodies pictured here are so dark. They are the deepest, richest, darkest brownies I have in my collection. I kind of love them.
If you are not 100% familiar with pain d’epices, think of it as the French version of gingerbread. Not the cookie, either, but an actual slice-able loaf of deeply spiced yumminess.
The brownie version I have for you today gets its flavor from all of the spices typically found in pain d’epices- cinnamon, cardamon, honey, rye flour and from extra-dark cocoa powder, and I am unabashedly borrowing a few ingredient proportions from this NYTimes/Violet Bakery recipe, here.

Pain d’Epices Brownies

11 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped small
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped small
1 1/2 c. dark rye flour
1/2 c. dark cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cardamon
1/4 tsp. ground anise
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. honey
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated orange peel

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line a 9″ x 13″ sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

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Melt the butter and both chocolates in a bowl set over a double boiler. Once melted, remove from heat and keep warm.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and all of the spices together and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, honey, vanilla, and orange peel. Whisk vigorously to combine.
Pour the warm chocolate mixture into the eggs and whisk/fold to combine completely.
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Sift the dry ingredients once more, on top of the chocolate mixture. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold the ingredients together until just combined.
Pour into the paper-lined pan and smooth the top.
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Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the edges are set and the middle is very soft under a dry surface, about 15-18 minutes.
Cool to room temperature before cutting into pieces, then sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top and eat with reckless abandon.

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Can we safely say that we have hit cookie season? I don’t think anyone has made that term official, but let’s just say we’re there. And the thought makes me so happy.

Are you feeling perhaps a little stuck as far as what to make? No judgement- this is my third batch of cookies this week, and I’m getting a little fuzzy-brained over here. I nearly missed a holiday potluck last night because I didn’t have time to make another batch of cookies, only to realize at the very last minute that I had dough from a previousproject in the freezer. Evening saved! There are just so damn many articles out there right now if you are looking for a little inspiration, but my favorite one hands down is the Washington Post Cookie Generator. Enter an ingredient you wish to use, and the WashPo’s cookie database will spit out a list of recipes to use. I mean to tell you, it is brilliant.

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Espresso Orange Snickerdoodles

8 oz. (two sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. espresso powder
1 Tbsp. candied orange peel, very finely chopped
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. espresso powder

Preheat the oven to 375F.

On medium speed, cream the butter and sugar together, occasionally scraping down the bowl, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg, then the egg yolk. Stir the vanilla and espresso powder together until dissolved. Add to the butter mixture. Add the orange peel, flour, tartar, baking soda, and salt and mix on low speed until evenly combined. Remove from the bowl, wrap tightly in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours before baking.

Combine the remaining 1/4 c. of sugar, cinnamon, and espresso powder in a medium bowl. Scoop the dough into tablespoon-sized pieces and roll into balls. Dredge each ball in the sugar mixture and place onto paper or silicon mat-lined sheet pans.

Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until the edges are light golden and slightly crispy and centers are very soft but dry.

Allow to cool slightly, then eat with reckless abandon.

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For me, the holiday season is when all of the best guilty pleasures roll out. It starts with the yearly Great Pumpkin bombardment, which by mid-September I am fully ready to dive gut first into. I’m trying not to eat my weight in Stollen but let’s face it, it may well happen. I’m doing quite a lot of back-up on Elvis’ Blue Christmas (do do do DOO do, do do do DOOO do).

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This pie is a marvelous guilty pleasure, and one that I heavily borrowed from Restless Chipotle. It is splendid, as is the rest of her site. I’m not a huge candy eater, and cooking with candy isn’t usually my thing, except for this. The Red Hots don’t over-spice or over-sugar the apples, but what they do give is the prettiest candy apple pink color to the filling.

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Red Candy Apple Pie

1 batch of pie dough, divided in two pieces and chilled

8 medium sweet-tart baking apples (I used honeycrisp and pink lady)
1/3 c. Red Hot candies
1/2 c. apple juice
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold
1 egg
2 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Roll each piece of dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8″ thick. Line a 9″ pie dish with one piece, trim the excess away from the rim, and return both pieces to the fridge to chill.

Peel core and slice the apples (about 8 slices per apple) and set aside.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed pan, bring the Red Hots, juice, sugar, and salt to a low simmer. Whisk gently until the candies are completely melted.

Add the apples to the pan and stir to combine. Bring the heat up to medium and continue to cook until the apples are slightly softened. Remove the apples, but reserve the juice/candy mixture in the pan.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, and lemon juice, being sure not to allow lumps to form. Add a 1/2 cup of the reserved juice. Pour the mixture back into the rest of the juice and allow to thicken over low heat, whisking often. Cool to lukewarm.

Pour the cooled apples into the pie shell. Top with the thickened sauce, then with the cold butter. Place the top crust on top, crimp the top and bottom together, and decorate.

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Beat the egg with a little water and brush lightly onto the top crust. Evenly sprinkle the 2 Tbsp. of sugar over the surface.

Bake at 375F until golden brown and bubbling, about 40-45 min.

Allow to cool before serving, then eat with reckless abandon.

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